BENGALURU: Nursing a toddler is more than just about nourishment. It’s about building a bond, says Santhy George, who breastfeeds her six-year-old daughter, Ananya.
“It’s like a hug. It is the way she connects to me,” says the mother who, going against the tide, also home schools her two daughters.
Santhy has never considered stopping breastfeeding. “I will wait for her to stop on her own,” she shares.
While the number of times she feeds Ananya has come down, it fluctuates depending on the weather, how busy she is or her daughter’s mood. “Sometimes the number rises and falls without any reason,” she explains.
Asked if she worries that her daughter might become codependent, Santhy says no. “Ananya is quite independent. I go out of station sometimes and when I am not there, she takes care of herself. My absence doesn’t affect her,” she clarifies.
Criticism doesn’t affect the young mother. “My husband is supportive. He frequently meets people in rural areas and has learnt that it is a common practice there. Mothers in villages don’t mind nursing an older child in public,” she says.
While doctors discouraged her from nursing the toddler beyond a point, she was supported by Breastfeeding Support for Indian Mothers, a peer-to-peer support group. “There are many experts and experienced mothers who are available at any time of the day to help us. They supplement their explanation with scientific facts,” Santhy says.
Dr Ashok, consultant neonatologist and paediatrician, Fortis Hospital, Bannerghatta Road, says a mother can continue breastfeeding a baby to comfort him or her.
“But it doesn’t hold any nutritive value for the child. It is ideal to nurse for two years, as the neurodevelopment of the baby happens till that age. But there is no harm is nursing for a longer duration,” he adds.
Dr Shubha Madhusudhan, clinical psychologist, Fortis Hospital, Cunningham Road, says, “Breast milk is a complete meal for a baby in its first year. There is nothing wrong in breastfeeding for a longer duration if the mother has the time and is willing. The decision to stop breastfeeding is that of the mother and the child. But even without being breastfed for long, a child turn out smart.”
When asked if it ensures emotional stability in kids, she says, “Emotional stability can be learnt with social cognition. It can be learnt by anyone at any time, even without being breastfed at all.”